Christmas in Paris is as enchanting as it could get. Parisians take everything to the next level and I love that!
As a non-Christian born in a country where Christmas is just another day at work, I probably get more excited than you’d expect. I spent a big part of my life and specifically my childhood abroad. As much as I loved Nowruz and the Persian new year traditions, it never felt like new year outside of Iran. My family tried their best to keep up with everything. We had the Haftseen table, made our Persian pastries and visited our Iranian friends during Nowruz. But when you actually have to be at school or uni on new year’s day and no one’s giving a sh*t, it just won’t work. No matter how hard you try.
And then it would be Christmas when I’d get lectures on Jesus, decorate classrooms and make cards for my family and friends at school, except there was no Christmas tree back at home and no presents to show off at school after the holidays. It’s like I was torn from my own traditions and didn’t get to fully enjoy the local traditions of where I was living either.
Last year I spent a good 40 days living with my family in Paris. And Christmas in Paris was exactly how I always wanted to be. It wasn’t cold unlike the Christmas I would get in Australia, it actually had something to do with Christianity unlike the commercialized Christmas I had experienced living in Tokyo and there were real tasteful decorations everywhere! Unlike Christmas in Lisbon where we’d hardly get proper light displays.
So no matter how many times you’ve made it to Paris, spending a few days during Christmas in the city of lights is well worth your time. It’s where you’ll be feeling jolly and festive even if you don’t celebrate and Paris is just too damn pretty in autumn to be missed.
8 Essential things to do during Christmas in Paris
#1 Check out the Christmas Markets in Paris (Marché de Noël)
I love me a good Christmas market and there happens to be plenty of them all around Paris. It’s a great place to hang out in the evenings and grab a cup of warm drink. There’s everything from Christmas decorations, to French soaps, candles, pastries and handicrafts from literally anywhere in the world. I checked out quite a few of them last year but here are some of the best Christmas markets in Paris to check out:
- Marché de Noël des Tuileries
- Marché de Noël de la canopée des Halles
- Marché de Noël à Saint-Germain
- Marché de Noël de La Défense
- Marché de Noël de Notre Dame de Paris
- Champ de Mars Christmas village
#2 Go ice skating outdoors
I’ve always been fascinated by Ice skating competitions on TV where couples are literally floating over ice in sparkly clothes. I’d watch them dreaming that I could ice skate like that one day. It never happened!
Ice skating is nothing popular in Iran and I had never tried it until last year. But I was so excited to give it my first shot during Christmas in Paris where you’ll find outdoor ice skating rinks set for the holidays. At my first attempt, I felt like a wobbling penguin who wouldn’t let go of the bars, but you actually get the hang of it pretty soon. Don’t let that stop you from giving a try. 😉
Here are some of the most popular ice skating rinks in Paris during Christmas:
- Tour Eiffel: On the first floor of the tower
- Grand Palais
- Hôtel de Ville: Right in front of the beautiful building
- Grand Arche: On the top of the Grand Arche with a great view of Paris
- Jardin des Tuileries
#3 Relish over the light displays
I personally don’t think much of Champs-Élysées. I don’t see what the fuss is all about. It’s just a wide street with shops, nothing too fancy really.
But walk in the Champs-Élysées at Christmas and you’ll know why it’s known as one of the prettiest streets in the world. With all the trees in the avenue draping with twinkling lights, gorgeous shop displays and cafe exteriors covered with evergreen foliage, you’re bound to fall in love with Paris.
Luxury department stores also go all the way with Christmas decorations. The Galerie Lafayette is known for putting up the most elegant Christmas tree in town. Boulevard Haussmann is flocking by visitors trying to get a glimpse of the tasteful and sophisticated window displays of Paris’s top brands. Galerie Lafayette, Printemps and BHV decorate their shop windows like a theatre scene from a fairytale play.
Here are some places in Paris to check out the most elegant Christmas decorations:
- Galerie Lafayette
- Printemps Haussmann
- Le Bon Marché
- Bercy Village
- BHV -Marais
- Avenue Montaigne
#4 Relish over a cup of hot chocolate in a Parisian cafe
I’m a spring girl by all means, but in the past years, I’ve become very fond of the autumn and winter fashion and the cold doesn’t bother me like before. I love being wrapped in my cosy chunky scarves with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. And where’s a better place to do that than a festive outdoor sitting area of a cafe in Paris? 🙂
#5 Ride a Carousel
I love how Carousels in France are brought out of the entertainment parks and located in random places around the city. They make such a good sight and who doesn’t want to get on a carousel? If nothing, Instagram is filled with pictures of young girls with flowing dresses on a carousel. So random! right?
When it comes to Christmas in Paris, carousels are also here to make a scene. They are beautifully ornamented to fit into the jolly season.
Where to ride a Carousel in Paris?
You’ll find them in every neighbourhood. Any big square in Paris has the potential of having a carousel but here are some of the most festive ones:
- Place de Madeleine
- Place de Concorde
- Hôtel de Ville
#6 Explore the secret Passages of Paris
Oh the secret passages of Paree…
When you’re sick of the crowds in Paris, head over to passages of Paris. Passages are small covered shopping centres that have been around in Paris since the 18th century. You’ll some of the most adorable antique shops, dinky cafes, art galleries and beautifully decorated restaurants. It’s like the 18th century Paris vibe all over again. But they even look more charming when visited during Christmas time.
The good thing is not a lot of tourists know about them or don’t make the effort to visit. So they’re not overflowed by people and you can enjoy your window shopping in peace.
Here’s a great self-guided walking route we used to explore the passages of Paris.
Read more: A guide to public transportation in Paris
#7 Visit Disneyland Paris at Christmas
Now I’ve had my fair number of visits to Disneyland Paris so far. In fact, the last time I went, I thought I was done with Disney for good. But I can’t deny the fact that the evening fireworks get me every time. That’s probably the only reason I’d be going back to Disney again.
But Disneyland Paris in Christmas gets a whole another vibe. You probably won’t see so many Christmas decorations all in one place anywhere else. The fireworks and the parade are also extra special. If you’ve never been to Disneyland, then you should not miss it by any chance, but if you’ve just never seen it during Christmas, I’d still recommend a visit.
#8 Join the mass at Notre Dame or Sacre Cœur
Spending Christmas day away from family can be a bit lonely if you’re used to having big celebrations. Paris is more like a ghost town on Christmas Eve and Christmas day with everyone celebrating indoors and a few tourists roaming around the touristy neighbourhoods. Not to mention, everything is closed, so there are very few things you could do apart from taking a walk and having the city all to yourself.
All the big churches in every neighbourhood will be holding a mass on Christmas Eve and some on Christmas day. The Notre Dame and Sacre Cœur are among the most popular with hundreds of participants. Whether you’re religious or not, the mass held in these churches is worth your time. The event is so peaceful and it’s just heartwarming to be among so many people for a joyful reason.
Last but not least, checking this site is what I’d always recommend to anyone visiting Paris. You’ll get all the details of what’s happening in town during your visit and there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for the best Christmas celebrations, ice skating rinks, museums, festivals, galleries and more.